Friday, December 4, 2009

In appreciation of other people's words . . .

This post is about two people's words; one a WMRA community member; the other a columnist for The New York Times.

As the Times part of the post is short, I'll start with that. In the interest of continuing a nuanced reflection on President Obama's West Point Speech, I enthusiastically recommend today's column by conservative David Brooks.

It made me think, rather than just react emotionally, to the current situation in Afghanistan.

It ends this way:
The advantage of the Obama governing style is that his argument-based organization is a learning organization. Amid the torrent of memos and evidence and dispute, the Obama administration is able to adjust and respond more quickly than, say, the Bush administration ever did.
The disadvantage is the tendency to bureaucratize the war. Armed conflict is about morale, motivation, honor, fear and breaking the enemy’s will. The danger is that Obama’s analytic mode will neglect the intangibles that are the essence of the fight. It will fail to inspire and comfort. Soldiers and Marines don’t have the luxury of adopting President Obama’s calibrated stance since they are being asked to potentially sacrifice everything.
Barring a scientific breakthrough, we can’t merge Obama’s analysis with George Bush’s passion. But we should still be glad that he is governing the way he is. I loved covering the Obama campaign. But amid problems like Afghanistan and health care, it simply wouldn’t do to give gauzy speeches about the meaning of the word hope. It is in Obama’s nature to lead a government by symposium. Embrace the complexity. Learn to live with the dispassion.

WMRA community member Eva Robertson is the second person whose words I wish to appreciate. First of all, Eva's had experiences most of us haven't. Before she moved to Harrisonburg, she'd danced in American Ballet Theatre in New York City, under the direction of Mikhail Baryshnikov, and worked as a lawyer with the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office.

This experiential combination of the creative and the analytical is present, I think, in her writing as well.

I met Eva when she joined the first ever WMRA essay writing workshop. I get the feeling Eva thinks about herself as a beginning writer, because she's only been writing seriously and in public for a couple of years. I, however, do not consider her a beginning writer. In my opinion she puts words down on the page that are well worth reading, that are about subjects well worth pondering.

And in today's case, worth listening to as well, for Eva is the author/voicer of today's "WMRA Civic Soapbox" (links to audio and text). In it she gives us her thoughts on a woman's right to choose and the Stupak amendment. Whether it makes you go yeah! or yuck! I think you'll appreciate the writing for its combination of close reasoning and good writing.

Eva's "Soapbox" is  an essay that didn't start out as an essay, but as a blog post. Eva writes The Dogwood Diarist, a blog on which she posts her thoughts a couple of times a week, writing about whatever strikes her. Her posts are sometimes about politics, sometimes about people she knows, sometimes about her personal life. And, in my opinion, no matter what Eva's subject is, the writing is makes her thoughts worth reading.

Good writing, to me, is one of life's great enhancements. I always have access to my my own thoughts; what I crave is access to other people's, at least when those thoughts are well-considered and well-expressed.  I'm sure most of you already know and read David Brooks. But I figured not all that many of you may know and read The Dogwood Diarist, so I thought I should let you know about it.

One other thing: Every time I insert a link into this blog that takes you instantly to another person's writing that I think you might find worth reading, I give a silent hooray! for the internet. I do celebrate the access it gives us all to other people's words.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, Martha! Thanks for this pitch. I'm very flattered! And thanks, too, for David Brooks' words, which are always so gratifying to read. In this time of bitter partisanship, they are themselves a kind of breakthrough -- a blend of the measured and the inspirational. I just love the way he knits together opposing views and finds the common note, the unifying thread. A friend of mine recently noted that she found him "sexy" because of this attribute -- I mean how many conservatives can get into the heart of a democrat like he can?